Time Travel Movie Marathon

The following is an article from the book Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Universe.

Got some time? Here's at least a day's worth of time travel flicks.

Holly wood loves time travel -they're always punting people forward in time or backward in time, or just plopping them into a feedback loop where they relive the same day over and over again. Even though time travel is scientifically impossible (sorry to disappoint), it doesn't keep people from making or going to movies about it.

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Army of Darkness: Technically the third part of director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series, but it's not like you need a road map for this plot, which features a one-handed discount store salesman (the impossibly lantern-jawed Bruce Campbell) hurled back into the Middle Ages to fight zombies and skeletons and a creepy, man-eating flying book. It's kind of dumb, but all horror freaks love it (and you know how high their standards are). It's pretty funny, in a stupid comic-book way. Besides, any movie in which a minimum wage-earner from the future can condescendingly call a castle full of medieval types a bunch of "monkeys" can't be all that bad.

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Back to the Future: Michael J. Fox goes back to the 1950s and is called "Calvin" because that's the name sewn into his underwear (Calvin Klein underwear -can't believe we need to explain this). The film's still funny in it's own right (especially with freaky Crispin Glover as Fox's loser dad), but now it's like two time travel movies in on. First you get the 1950s, which Fox goes back to, then you get the 1980s, which is the "present"' for this film. It's enough to give you a shiver (look for the Huey Lewis cameo). There were two more Back to the Future films, but unless you've got a thing for Michael J., you needn't bother.

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Groundhog Day: Bill Murray goes back in time -exactly one day, over and over again. In the process he turns from obnoxious twit to the perfect man (or at least the perfect man for Andie McDowell, and who wouldn't want to be that kind of man?). It's a fine, fine film, and in addition to being funny, it's actually sweet and a little serious, and it proved that Murray was a little better of an actor than anyone ever gave him credit for before. But let's not kid ourselves: If you had to live Groundhog Day over and over again, you'd become a little zen yourself to keep from going utterly freakin' insane.

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Planet of the Apes: Charleton Heston lands on what he thinks is an alien planet and finds it populated by talking apes who think he's a savage (mind you, this was before he became the NRA's alpha male). Ol' Charlie is awesome in this -he grunts, he snarls, he chews scenery like a silverback confronted with a particularly choice bunch of bananas ("Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"). They remade this one, but the newer version is -how do the French say? Ah, yes -un lame-o stinkeroo. Stick with Charlie, baby.

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Sleeper: This is the movie people are thinking of when they say they liked Woody Allen's movies when he was funny. Freakily enough, many of the wacky things Allen posited about the future in this movie have already come true, like robotic pets and TV with millions of channels. We still don't have an orgasmatron, alas. Something yet to look forward to.

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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: First Contact: The crews of the various Star Trek series travel in time so much and with so much blatant disregard for the Prime Directive that it's entirely possible that Jean-Luc Picard is in your shower stall right this very instant. For all that, the two best Star Trek movies rely on time travel as plot points: In Star Trek IV, the original crew saves the universe by saving the whales, and that means going back to 1980s San Francisco to find some. This features some nice moments with Spock being taken for a hippie burnout, and Kirk being taken for a fatuous windbag (oh -right). First Contact has Picard's crew going back in time (but still to our future) to keep the evil Borg from assimilating humanity. There are some good action scenes and a disturbingly sexy Borg Queen (Alice Krige) who wants to assimilate (heh heh heh) Data, the friendly android. Speaking of going where no man has gone before!

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The Terminator Series: The film series that turned Arnold Schwarzenegger's inability to act human into a good thing. In the first film (The Terminator), Ah-nold is a killing robot sent from the future to ventilate hapless waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton); in the second one (T2) Arnie helps the now-buff-but-a-bit-insane Sarah battle an advanced shape-shifting Terminator model. The first one was made for roughly the same amount of money it took to cater the second film, but both are superior examples of the action genre, with smart scripting and well-designed mayhem.

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Time Bandits: Thieving dwarves steal a map from God and blitz through history causing havoc.This one plays like a Monty Python time travel film (right down to the distinctly nasty-yet-funny ending: "Mom! Dad! Don't touch that! It's evil!") and there's a good reason for that: It's directed by Python's Terry Gilliam and features several of his Monty mates, as well as Sean Connery as Agamemnon (presumably before he left for Troy, since when he got back, he was murdered by his wife. Hey, it's ancient Greece.) Kind of freaky, but a real visual feast, and a lot smarter than most.

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The Time Machine: Well, duh. How can you not include this one? Or these two, actually, since you have your choice: the classic 1960 George Pal version, with Rod Taylor as H. G. Wells, traveling far into the future to find humans divided between the twee, pale Eloi and the brutish, cannibalistic Morlocks, or the 2002 version that features Guy Pearce and a lot of really expensive-looking special effects. (Fun fact: The 2002 version is directed by Simon Wells, H. G. Wells' distant relative.) Neither version quite picks up that the novel The Time Machine was a socialist allegory about British class divisions, but, hey, like any of that's gonna play at the drive-ins.

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12 Monkeys: Hey, look, Terry Gilliam's back again, and this time he's sending Bruce Willis hurtling through history, from a depressing stink hole of a future to stop a group of bioterrorists from unleashing a plague that wipes out most of humanity. Willis is damn fine as a disoriented, slightly nutty time traveler who can't quite remember if he's sane or not, and check out Brad Pitt, who plays a cross-eyed scuzzball and ended up picking up an Oscar nomination for it. Overall, really depressing, but in a good way, not unlike Gilliam's Brazil or Blade Runner (with which this movie shares a screenwriter).


The article above was reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Universe.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!


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I read that Bill Murray's character in Groundhog day was orginally suppose to be stuck for 10,000 years repeating the same day. They changed it to only 10 years by the movie's release.

For another time travel movie check out "Time Crimes" on Netflix. Interesting approach to all the problems dealing with meeing yourself.
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I can't believe Uncle John overlooked the classic Time Chasers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Chasers

Commodore 64 plus Cessna equals time travel!
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